Community members as well as concerned citizens far and wide have stepped up to offer assistance to those affected by the Okanogan Complex wildfires and the firefighters working hard to prevent further losses.
Rhonda Hinkley has been named General Public Liaison, as there are so many grassroots efforts springing forward it’s hard for people seeking assistance or offering helping hands to know exactly where to turn. Hinkley can be reached at (509) 429-1865.
The Tonasket Distribution Center, located next to the Tonasket Visitor and Business Information Center at 215 S. Whitcomb Ave. is taking donations for firefighters as well as for the shelter set up at the Community Cultural Center (CCC) in Tonasket. Small donations can be taken directly to the Distribution Center, but large donations need to be coordinated with Hinkley. The Distribution Center is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Donations of building materials can be taken to the Green Okanogan Recycling Center (GO) at 3 Rodeo Road, off Highway 97 at Clarkson Mill Road. GO is open Tuesdays noon to 6 p.m. and Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The only place free meals are being served right now to evacuees and volunteers is at the CCC, so anyone seeking a meal or wanting to cook, serve or donate food should contact the shelter coordinator Laurel Sylvan at (509) 322-6254. Accounts have been set up at Grants Market and Beyers Market for donations to purchase milk and other perishable items. The CCC is set up with cots, hygiene items and some clothing and is serving three meals a day.
People with animals seeking shelter can camp for free at the Tonasket Rodeo Grounds, in either tents or self-contained RVs. The rodeo grounds has stalls available for horses and crates available for dogs and cats. For information, contact Eli Rampley at (509) 846-5028 or Roger Sawyer at (509) 429-8036.
Emergency crews, DNR and anyone else fighting fires in need of a shower can take one at the Maximus Fitness and Training Center, 224 W. Fourth in Tonasket. Contact Christa Levine at (509) 322-2946 or (509) 486-4548 for the entry code.
For structural and property losses, people are advised to contact the following: Okanogan Assessor, (509) 422-7190; Red Cross, (509) 422-3440 or (800) 733-2767 (1-800-RedCross); FEMA in Brewster, (202) 646-2500 or (800) 621-3362; and Washington State Emergency Center (253) 512-7000.
For shelter needs, contact the CCC at 411 Western Ave, (509) 486-1328 or Sylvan at (509) 322-6254; the Home Depot in Omak (509) 826-5459; or Brewster High School (509) 689-3418, where Red Cross has established a shelter.
A firefighter/fire victims fund has been set up with the Tonasket/Okanogan Valley Lions Club at PO Box 120, Tonasket, 98855. The Lions Club is a non profit 501 (c) 3, with 100% of donations to the Fire Relief Fund going to victims. Other organizations with specific fire funds are Okanogan County Community Action, Community Foundation of North Central Washington located out of Wenatchee and the American Legion.
An online community resource matching donations of goods and services to unmet needs called Co-op Corkboard Classifieds is available at www.tonasketcoop.com/corkboards/.
“If ever there was a way a horrible disaster like these wildfires could have a silver lining, it would be the way it pulls a community together,” said former Tonasket resident Aly Perigrew. “It brings tears to my eyes to see the immediate, completely unselfish outpouring of support coming from throughout the community and across the state. In some small way, I believe these things can be a blessing in disguise. Natural disasters keep us in mind of what’s truly important.”
“Everybody’s doing a little, and it’s making it a lot,” said Levin, who has been making sack lunches to send out to fire camps. “The fire fighters want jerkey and Red Bull,” Levine said with a laugh. “We’ve been sending ham and turkey sandwiches with full lunches, and including wet wipes, Visine and Chapstick.”